The Independent

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (July 4) - The leaders themselves are lamenting the fact that Vanuatu is heading for another coalition. There is no outright winner waiting in the wings and we are not about to achieve such a milestone in our political development. The leaders themselves have rendered that impossible.

But we can and must vote. The Electoral Office is quite rightly calling on all citizens to exercise their democratic right. It is our civic duty. Tuesday will see families going to their gardens and others making a picnic of the public holiday, but it is surely something to be proud of, an achievement of Independence, that we can elect our leaders, and the privilege should not be taken lightly. Voting should come first on Tuesday, as a right, and also a duty.

And then we have a duty to vote for people who will be honest, diligent and mindful of the heavy responsibility they are taking on. There should be no place for wrong-doers to mismanage the affairs of the country a second, third or fourth time.

There is always the likelihood of deception through double registration. If the Electoral Office deletion of over 5,000 names from the roll was a cancellation of double registrations, then it was surely a good move. As reported, however, it was the lifting of names of people who did not vote in 2002. This would be a gross disenfranchising of electors, and its legality highly questionable. A by-election would become necessary, and further cripple the country's finances.

The writer was privileged to preside over the polling station on Makira in the first post-Independence election. The gravity with which the occasion was treated is a memory which will not be forgotten. The chief organized villagers into roll order so that voting could proceed in the most orderly way possible, and by common consent the polling station was permitted to be moved a few yards so that an ailing, bed-ridden elector could cast his vote from his bedside.

The turnout was 100%.

We could still achieve something of a milestone, this time, if everyone went to the polls. At least we would be voting in people whom the majority wanted.

July 7, 2004

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